Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 – Review​ | Champagne​ Twist

Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 Review

Was the Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 about authentic Caribbean food, or just Jamaican Jerk?

Caribbean food month, August 2018, Champagne Twist

Continuing with Caribbean Food Month on Champagne Twist, last Saturday, I visited the Caribbean Food Week Festival at the new venue, Bernie Spain Gardens, on the Thames’ South Bank.

If you love Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat or Rice and Peas, the Caribbean Food Week Festival was a celebration of these 3 dishes, but if you wanted to learn about authentic Caribbean Cuisine, the menu was disappointing.

 

Bernie Spain Gardens Southbank - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

The Bernie Spain Gardens on the South Bank of the River Thames hosted the 2-day weekend food festival, just ahead of the London Carnival. Sadly, the opportunity to showcase the regions vast cuisines was missed and gave a poor overall impression of Caribbean Food.

In the age of plant-based diets, I was extremely disappointed not to see much of the fresh fruit and vegetables the Caribbean has to offer. Worse of all, the event was billed as a colourful celebration of Caribbean food, yet the main colours showcased, green, black and yellow, were that of the Jamaican flag.

JFB Jerk Grill - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

It is now clear to me why so many people in the UK believe that Jamaica is the Caribbean and the Caribbean is Jamaica. The confusion is not helped when only 3 dishes from 1 island seemed to be ‘celebrated’, and the opportunity to sell fresh Caribbean fruit and veg was missed.

Officials from the Voice newspaper stall gave away an African and Caribbean restaurant guide, which was a great idea. I was also given a bag of free literature, including a newspaper from June and a magazine celebrating African heritage from October 2016. A two-year old magazine which didn’t even reference Caribbean food. I was also informed that they had run out of literature to give to patrons, shocking as the show started at 11am and before noon, they had run out. This hardly gave a positive impression.

Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

Reading the phrase “Caribbean food’, I had expected examples of cuisine from each or at least the majority of the countries within the Caribbean. So when 95% of the available food was Jamaican based, of which 80% consisted of Jerk chicken, Curry goat and Rice and Peas, it did nothing to counteract the image of Caribbean food being limited.

Jerk Hot sauces - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

There seems to be a sense of ‘protectionism’ over this cuisine, while understandable due to the historical exploitation of the region, the time has come for the Caribbean to promote its own food in an age when Western cultures are crying out for organic, pure food and drinks. Gone are the days when sugar was the cash crop. Coconut is now the superfood of choice, yet the majority of coconut products, despite the abundance, doesn’t come from the Caribbean.

I have often wondered, with its huge variety, and abundant fruit and vegetables, unique meat and world famous seafood, why Caribbean food isn’t that well known in the UK. This event goes some way to answering that question.

Referencing a tiny selection of Jamaican cuisine as representative of Caribbean cuisine not only limits people expectations of Jamaica food, it limits and potentially damages the reputation of all the countries within the region.

For vegetarians, it was almost impossible to find anything suitable to eat.  I ended up with a dish consisting of Halloumi, fries and jerk sauce.  While it was lovely, it was hardly a showcase of Caribbean food, especially when only 1 element of the dish, the jerk sauce, could be attributed to the region.  Good luck to you if you’re a vegan! There were tofu sausages available on one stall, but not all vegetarians or vegans like or eat tofu.

Grace Foods stall - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

I also hoped to listen to experts discussing Caribbean food and drink in relation to health, particularly in the wake of Dr Karin’s speech remarking the coconut oil is ‘pure poison’.  Although, I was pleased that Grace Foods, the event’s hosts had provided a number of recipe leaflets, which included drinks and some plant-based recipes.

Chef Solomon Smith, Brixton Soup Kitchen Charity - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist
Chef Solomon Smith with host Nicola, Caribbean Food Week Festival, Bernie Spain Gardens, South Bank, London

The cooking demonstrations were also interesting and proved to be the highlight of the festival, but again more should and could have been made of this. Over the weekend there are 2 different chefs, I attended the last day so was treated to 3 of the 4 live demos lead by Chef Solomon Smith. Unfortunately, the demos were meat or fish based and not vegetarian recipes. Samples were plentiful, but none were solely plant-based, which limited the number of people who could enjoy the samples.

Picnic Bench - Caribbean Food Week Festival | Champagne Twist

The 3 picnic benches were beautifully painted, to encourage people to actually sit down and eat, but more benches should have been provided. A few large parasols wouldn’t have gone amiss, providing shade from the sun, or the rain, yet still keeping visitors in the area and providing relatively low-cost advertising.

Brixton Soup Kitchen charity van - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

In the middle of the space was a large grey vehicle, which many thought was a delivery van. Naturally many thought it should have been moved prior to the start of the festival.  As it turns out, the van was there to help promote the Brixton Soup Kitchen, a charity which feeds and assists homeless people in the area. I am curious as to why there was no signage, or anyone standing by the van to explain the vehicle or the charity.  It was only when I attended the cooking demos, that the situation was made somewhat clearer. More of this in a later post.

Brixton Soup Kitchen - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

Brixton Soup Kitchen Chef Solomon Smith charity van - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

Travel companies missed a trick by not taking advantage of holiday seekers. There was one stall for people wishing to purchase or hire overseas property, but only for Jamaica, yet again, limiting choice.

The festival is now in its 3rd year, so still in its infancy. Previously held in Brixton, the move to the Bernie Spain Gardens was a stroke of genius, as the location is more central, making it more accessible for patrons, and taking advantage of a beautiful wide open space, flanked by the Thames, and a beautiful floral oasis, with multicultural art galleries, restaurants and shopping in the form of the OXO Tower and the Gabriel’s Wharf.

It usually takes at least 5 years or so for such events to become established, so I still have high hopes. A little fine tuning supported by the services from a good PR company, actively promoting all or least as many of the countries within the Caribbean, more emphasis on fresh produce, and celebrating the health benefits of the product, the festival could the late summer fixture, and the essential prelude to the Notting Hill Carnival.

Heck, all they need to bring on the colour is a flag display from all the countries in the region and maybe a few poster maps, establish a few fun and educational games (other than just a big Connect 4 and a few bean bags) for the kids, some fresh produce stalls and you have a true celebratory family-oriented festival. More live music wouldn’t go amiss, the obligatory steel pan band imagery is getting a little stale.

bean bags green black yellow Jamaica - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

In fairness, for a free event, it’s not bad and such food festivals should be encouraged. There are a number of fundamental changes that need to be made over the next 2 years, if the festival has any chance of creating a movement that sustains and actively promotes the food of the Caribbean. Granted, the organiser of the festival is a Jamaican based company, so naturally, they are going to promote their country of origin. But that should not be at the near total expense of the other Caribbean countries, especially when the festival is called ‘Caribbean Food’. If they continue down this path, they are just shooting themselves in the foot and risk bringing down the entire region with them.

There is more to the Caribbean than Jamaica and Jerk seasoning, it’s about time people were made aware.

Grace Food products - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

 

 

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Just V Show / Love Natural, Love You Show – Day 1|Champagne Twist

Allergy and Free From Show / Just V Show / Love Natural, Love You Show / Eat Smart Show|Champagne Twist

Day 1 – Friday 6th July 2018

 

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Allergy and Free From Show / Just v Show / Love Natural, Love You Show / Eat Smart Show – Champagne Twist

 

With 4 shows under 1 roof, Olympia is the place to be if you’re a foodie.

 

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B Free stall, Allergy and Free From Show, Olympia, Kensington, London | Champagne Twist

 

Last year I felt overwhelmed by the vast number of stalls, the bags of free food, the number of talks and demos.  So this year I planned ahead.  I downloaded the show map, exhibitor list, and timetables yesterday, studied which talks I wanted to attend and the quickest routes to take to get from 1 talk to another.

 

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Good To Bee stall, Allergy and Free From Show, Olympia, Kensington, London | Champagne Twist

 

Friday, I’m guessing, is the least busiest day, due to work and school commitments,  and major events such as Wimbledon, Grand Prix, World Cup and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.  Plus, with this unusually prolonged summer heat wave, where we actually have sunshine and the associated hosepipe bans to contend with, who wants to be cooped up in a huge building contending with massive crowds?

I also noticed this year that more people have followed my lead and brought their trolleys, suitcases and wheelie bags. I’m such a trend setter!

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Personally, I find it funny that I have attended a health show and purchased various chocolate puddings and cakes, with plans to purchase more. But I do this for 2 important reasons – 1, to review the produce purchased and in the case Freaks of Nature puds, to stock up.

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Freaks of Nature Puds, show offer sign, Allergy and Free From Show, Olympia, Kensington, London | Champagne Twist

I’m going again tomorrow and on the final day of the 3-day event – which I didn’t manage to do last year, mostly because I found the whole event overwhelming.

But not this year. I have a plan!

More to follow.

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Food trends for 2018 : Update | Champagne Twist

Well, what do you know? No sooner had I posted my article about the top 5 food and drink trends for 2018, it was announced that a London bakery was picked to make the wedding cake of the year. Meghan Markle and Henry Wales on the day they exchange vows, will be cutting their wedding cake flavoured with lemon and wait for it … elderflowers!

Yes, as I predicted, floral flavours are set to be one of the major food and drink trends this year.

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I may have to wander to Hackney and sample the baked delights Violet Bakery has to offer.  Well, someone has to make sure the cake is perfect for the Royal Wedding.

Megs and Harry, you can both thank me later. I’m still waiting for my invite, btw!

Video​: Top 5 food and drink trends 2018 | Champagne Twist

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Elderflower, lavender, rose, chive blossoms, violet, hibiscus and pansy. Prepare to see these floral favourites and more, everywhere, from cakes to teas, from cocktails to salads.

Champagne Twist On Vacation: Barbados Series Preview​ now Live!

It’s finally here, the series preview of my new travel series.

The new series, Champagne Twist On Vacation: Barbados starts news week. There will be reviews, blog and vlog posts, travel guides and tips and so much more.

It all starts next week, so subscribe and make sure you don’t miss out!

The Great British Sewing Bee Live Event – videos // Champagne Twist

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Hello,

If you are subscribed to my YouTube channel, you may have noticed a few new videos. Well, please stay tuned, as I upload more footage from the Great British Sewing Bee Live event, held at London’s ExCeL.

As a taster, here are 2 recently published videos.

There are more videos on the way, which will be published over the next couple of days, if my over worked computer can keep up!

Plus, I have a very special announcement to make over the next few days, so please subscribe, so that you don’t miss out on all the latest form Champagne Twist.

Thanks for reading and to all my new subscribers, a very warm welcome, hope you like it here in this little corner of the interweb 🙂

Great British Sewing Bee Live – New YouTube video | Champagne Twist

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Picture source: http://thegreatbritishsewingbeelive.com

Hello,

I’ve just published a new video on my YouTube channel, featuring footage of my trip to the inaugural Great British Sewing Bee Live event, at ExCel London.

Please take a look and comment either on my YouTube channel or here at ChampagneTwist.com.

A review of the event is coming soon and a ‘What I brought at the show’ video will be posted shortly.

Enjoy!

 

Espace Gabrielle Chanel – Review | Champagne Twist

It has admittedly been a while since I’ve been out and about in London Town. Few things will draw me from under my comfy duvet when it’s pouring down with torrential rain. However a chance to attend a Chanel workshop would do the trick.

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Espace Gabrielle Chanel, 27 Old Bond Street, London

Starting today and running till 24th September, Chanel is hosting a special pop-up mini exhibition and workshop event on Old Bond Street. I was lucky enough to attend earlier this afternoon on the launch day.

During the workshop participants were introduced to the history of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, the inspiration of Chanel’s latest perfume creation. During the fun session, we were we able to sample the 4 main flowers scents used to create this new perfume, Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang, Tuberose and Jasmine.

While I found the workshop genuinely fascinating, as a fan of Chanel, I wasn’t told anything new that couldn’t be sourced from the official Chanel YouTube Channel. That said, I still found it enjoyable and loved the idea of sampling the main notes of the perfume and then the new Gabrielle fragrance itself. The expert guiding the audience was also very entertaining, informative, skilfully delivering the presentation with passion.

I wanted to learn about the new fragrance, partly so that I could review it, and partly to see if I liked it enough to purchase it for myself. Having gone through the trouble and undoubtably huge expense of hiring an Old Bond Street building, decorating it so beautifully, and creating a fun and interactive experience specially themed around this new perfume, the participants were strangely not given a sample of the said perfume to take home.

Like most, I rarely purchase a perfume straight off the bat. I tend to source samples initially so I can experiment with the fragrance for a few days, and experience the dry down fragrance over time.  High end fragrances of this nature are a considered purchase, so I was surprised and disappointed that such a obvious opportunity to promote this new product was not taken advantage of.

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When I think of Chanel, especially Gabrielle Chanel, I think of glamour, generosity, decadence, opulence and aspiration. The environment of 27 Old Bond Street certainly has that air, with its beautifully decorated open spaces, but not gifting a small sample of this new product seemed a little mean.

We were gifted a branded ribbon, a badge after the workshop, and later an exhibition poster contained in a large branded canvas tote.

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A small vial of the eau de toilette would have done wonders for bloggers and customers to promote this fragrance. While I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, the gifts, which are nice and useful, they did make me feel a little under appreciated and somewhat exploited. As I mentioned, I was keen to learn about the new perfume, described by Vogue magazine as a “once in a decade event”.  I would have happily forgone the bag, badge and ribbon, for a 1.5ml sample of the eau de perfume or even the eau de toilette, rather than being used as merely a virtual, unpaid walking advertisement.

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If they had pinned the ribbon and badge to the bag, again it would have felt that little bit more special. How many adults attending a Chanel event would relish a pin badge or a piece of branded ribbon, especially when those items are presented beside the large perfume bottles? It would be hard enough to fob that off to a 5 year old. The effect defocused from the new fragrance celebrations and came across as a little ‘stingy’, a word I would never before have associated with Chanel.

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I have written a review of the fragrance, which you can read here, as I popped into Fenwicks for a sample card. Having just visited an event about the new perfume, I really shouldn’t have had to go to a department store to obtain a sample.

There is the opportunity to explore the interactive displays on the ground floor to and watch the video montages. However to fully experience Gabrielle, you are respectfully invited to purchase a bottle for around £115 for 100ml.

If you’re in the area, have a spare 30 – 45 mins, and you’re a Chanel fan, I would suggest going to Espace Gabrielle Chanel, located at 27 Old Bond Street, nearest tube station Green Park. Book a workshop to learn about the product and receive a some nice goodies, but don’t expect a take home a sample of the actual product for which the entire space was developed.

 

Rating: 3 out of 5

3-star

 

 

What really happened at the Bloggers’ Meet Up, Allergy & Free From Show Learning Centre

The bloggers meet up from hell - the allergy & free from show July 2017
What really happened at the Bloggers’ Meet Up, Allergy & Free From Show Learning Centre

Few things surprise me. I predicted Brexit, the US election and the UK election.  I knew when One Direction would split up, and that the Master would kill Missy in Doctor Who. As I said, few things surprise me, but today at the Allergy and Free From Bloggers’ meet up, that was an absolute shocker.

Attending the event was intended to be a treat for us bloggers, a chance to meet fellow foodies and interact with great companies who work tireless to create such great products.

Organised chaos

Sadly, for want of a simple clipboard and checklist, rather than a happy, friendly chit chat between foodies, the event turned into a free for all, which could have turned rapidly into something more disastrous.

I’m writing this, because I have never in my life witnessed such total greed in people. I will point out firstly that the organiser and attending bloggers couldn’t have been nicer and I would have loved to have had a good old natter with them. I would have loved to chat with all the food producers who also attended, as it is unusual to have the opportunity for a face to face with people, who not only care deeply about the products they make, but also the customers who they sell their items to.

Yet the ugly greed of some people, completely spoiled the occasion for me.

Examples of behaviour

One woman had the audacity to sit down next to me and boast at length how she grabbed a number of free samples. Then she asked me what a blogger was!

Another woman continually grabbed as much as her hands could manage, pushing other people in the process. Honestly, was there any need for this?

I asked another person who seemingly came from nowhere if she was a blogger. She replied in the positive. She lied. When pushed, she admitted she overheard that someone was giving out freebies and she wanted to see what she could get.

One woman, with a foot in a cast, climbed over several benches, and physically pushed her way to the front, in order to get a bottle of beer.  She may have a bad foot, but she’s got a good pair of eyes and more stamina than Andy Murray! She’s pretty quick too, for a person with a foot in plaster.

Another woman, pretended that she didn’t understand English, yet was later heard conversing in English to her associate, discussing how they could trick other producers into giving them more free stuff.

It wasn’t the fact that these people took, well stole, these items, heck it happens all the time. It was the calculated malice in which they conducted themselves. Honestly, in all my days, I have never seen a sudden mass of people, so greedy, so dishonest, so disgusting.

After effects

There are the knock on effects – this was a group of bloggers, who specialise in food allergies. They perform vital work in getting information out to people who a) can’t attend these events and b) require specific knowledge in order to carry on with their daily lives.

Of course, these greedy horrors won’t care a jot and would probably step over their own grandmother for a penny. But many will miss out in this important information, why should. they have to suffer?

It both angers and saddens me that I had to bore witness to such abject greed. For goodness sakes, this is a G8 country. Yes, things are bad, but have we reached the level of such awful behaviour? Have we become so uncaring, so selfish, so greedy, so absolutely shameless? Apparently we have.

How it went wrong

I don’t understand why the area wasn’t closed off to the general public, or why none of the bloggers were asked for any form of ID. Thankfully it didn’t quite develop into a full run, but in a confined area, with so many people, frankly it wasn’t worth the risk for me and I left half way through.

It was continually announced over the PA that it was a private event, yet still more  and more people crammed their way into the space in order to fill their boots. The effect was by then too little, too late. Perhaps being in that immediate environment heightened what happened, but I tell you this, I never what to witness such ugly, cold hearted greed ever again.

I did manage to speak briefly to a few producers, and I will either contact them separately and/or review their products in due course.

Yes, I know I run a risk of being ostracised from the blogging community by publishing this post, but if this is the way such events are conducted, people need to know.

Reaction from Allergy & Free From Learning Centre Assistant

To add insult to injury, one of the Allergy & Free From Learning Centre assistants rudely interrupted me mid-conversation with the event organiser, after I had waited patiently, by holding her hand up to my face, giving me the most evil look imaginable.

Was there any need for that, for what was in essence partly her failure to keep the event safe and organised?

No doubt this will all be buried in the social media web as quickly as possible to minimise any perceived damage.

All for want of clipboard and a checklist.

bloggers event, gift bag

#BloggersSuite, July 2017

Hello folks,

It’s the season for blogging meet ups, as yesterday I attended my 2nd event, this time hosted by scarlettlondon.com. BloggersSuite was held at the Qbic, London City hotel in Aldgate, East London.

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Alright treacle?, light display at the Qbic London City hotel, East London. Picture source qbichotels.com/london-city

The 2 hour long afternoon event was very different from Blogtacular, which I attended 3 weeks ago. Most of the attendees were beauty or fashion bloggers. The diversity of the attendees in terms of age, ethnicity, gender and blogging specifications was not as diverse as I would have liked.

Venue

Qbic, London City, is a nice hotel, but I’m not sure it was the ideal venue for BloggersSuite. The event hosted 75 bloggers, with a few businesses showcasing their products, Instagramable areas and a long table for the speakers and attendees. I thought the space was too small to be effective, and I found it difficult to hear the speakers, specially due to the loud background noise. There wasn’t enough space for all the attendees to sit down to listen to the speaker, meaning that only a lucky few were able to enjoy the highlight of the event in relative comfort.

Food and drink

I was disappointed with the food, which consisted of Qbic logoed cup cakes and popcorn in pink striped bags. The cup cakes were Instagramable, but the sponge was flavourless, and had quite a dry texture. The creamy frosting and decorative disc were both very bland in taste.

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Qbic London City Cupcakes

The popcorn packets again were Instagramable, but tasted stale.

The drinks were nice, I liked the complimentary cocktail, but I can’t tell you what it was as they were not labeled and there was no one I could see to ask.

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BloggersSuite event, 1st July 2017, East London

I particularly liked the bottled Kineta Green Apple Matcha drink.  Green Cola was also available, but I didn’t have an opportunity to sample it.

Goodie bag

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#BloggersSuite goodie bag, July 2017

Very impressive selection of beauty themed goodies in the bag. The value of the contents I believe outweigh the ticket price. If you’re not into beauty, you may find the goodie disappointing, but I am excited to try out these products and will report back on them soon.

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Contents of the #BloggersSuite goodie bag

 

Attendees were also gifted mobile phone usb sticks from SanDisk (not shown).

Special mention

Bloggerssuite did top Blogtacular by arranging a charity raffle for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, and at the time of writing, they had raised the best part of £200 in just 2 hours. I thought this was a nice touch, which was notably and extremely disappointingly missing from the otherwise perfect Blogtacular event.

If you would like to donate to this cause, please click this link for more information.

Mini masterclasses

The audience were treated to talks from 3 high profile bloggers on 3 different topics. The speakers were;

Haydy Squibb  – Basic SEO Masterclass

Charlotte Jonsie – How to get brands to notice you an hoe to make your mark in the blogosphere

Vix Meldrew – Blog branding and finding your voice

All three speakers were brilliant, but as I mentioned, I found it difficult to hear their talks over the background noise, and I know I missed out on some key information they offered, which is such a pity.

It seems that the topic I was particularly interested in, “Fashion to flatlay” was cancelled, without explanation. The published timetable I accidentally discovered the day before on one of the speakers blogs, seems to have substantially changed, without notice – maybe I missed the announcement.

Value for money?

At £14.14 (£5.80 for early bird tickets), the ticket price was value for money. The goodie bag was generous, and speakers were good, but it was a pity that there wasn’t enough space to really take full advantage of everything the event had to offer.

Overall impression

It was a compact, busy venue, the food disappointing, drinks good, but in fairness, these events are not meant to focus on the facilities, the menu or even dare I say the goodie bag.

The speakers made this event, providing invaluable information in an entertaining way, which I’m sure everyone who attended were able to gain some good takeaways. The charity raffle was also a lovely thing to do, and I think the organisers should be highly praised for their efforts in this regard.

However, there simply wasn’t the space or the opportunity for me to engage with other attendees or the businesses as I would have liked. I did have a quick chat with a rep from SanDisk, but ran out of time to talk to the other business reps.  The number of attendees was spot on in my opinion, but the venue was too compact to really make the most of the the event.

I also would have appreciated some sort of house keeping at the start, such as a welcome speech from the organisers, and speaker and business introductions.

Would I recommend BloggersSuite?

Yes. If you’re a beauty or fashion blogger, it is well worth a couple of hours of your time, especially for the goodie bag and the mini masterclasses.

I do get the impression that the organisers work very hard to put these events together, and was impressed with portions of the afternoon. The let down was the lack of physical space. I could forgive the sub par food, but not being able to hear the speakers and introducing a new timetable without notice simply shouldn’t happen. There was a general lack of information on just about everything, which I found surprising and disappointing. With just a few, inexpensive tweaks, this could be an essential annual event on every bloggers’ calendar.

Did you attend BloggersSuite? What did you think? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe.

Thanks for reading.